Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Does Calvinism Kill Evangelism?

One of the most frequently heard charges brought against Calvinists is that a belief in the doctrine of election will kill the desire for evangelism. It is reasoned that if God had chosen from the foundation of the world who would be saved, then there is no need to go out and tell people about Jesus. They will be saved anyway. But this argument is silly on it's face.

God ordains the means as well as the ends. Yes, God chose who would be saved. But he also chose the way they would be saved. That is through the gospel message. Every biblical Calvinist believes that no one gets saved unless they hear the gospel and believe it. That is the whole premise behind sending out missionaries. The gospel message must be given to the people! They cannot believe in him of whom they have never heard. Read Paul's argument in Romans 10.

When Jesus gave us the parable of the sower, he left us the task of being "seed scatterers." Jesus told us some people will not believe, and he also said some would be false believers who would eventually fall away. But he also said that the seed would fall on good ground and bear fruit. If we believed that argument that election kills evangelism we would have to tell Jesus that since some seed will fall on stony ground, we ought not scatter seed at all. Of course, that would be a ridiculous statement.

God has chosen His people from among fallen humanity. And he sends us into the world carrying the good news of salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Those whose hearts have been prepared by God to receive the message will believe. If a person does not believe when they hear the message, it does not mean they are reprobate. It simply means they did not believe today. They may yet believe. In fact, so long as a person is alive and breathing, they may yet believe and be saved. God's power can reach the hardest heart. Calvinists know we have no warrant from God to give up on any person. God tells us his word will not return to him void but will accomplish the purposes for which he sends it forth. Knowing that, and also knowing that God is calling to himself a people from every tongue, tribe, nation and ethnic group on the planet, we have confidence in our preaching. If we get the gospel out, sooner or later people will be saved. Our confidence is not in ourselves or our methods, but in the power of God to do his own work through his word. Truly Paul spoke when he said "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase."

Being a Calvinist ought to make a person the most zealous of soul winners. The old puritans called soul winning "man fishing." We ought all to be fishers of men. Knowing what we know, how can we be anything but "man fishers"? Many great Christians, whose names live on in history, have given everything they had to this great work of carrying the gospel to every corner of the world. Why? Because no one gets saved unless they hear and believe. Calvinists know that. And they know that God works through his word, by his Spirit, and that it is God alone who saves, and not us.

No my friend, Calvinism does not kill evangelism. A Calvinist who is not a soul winner is someone who either does not understand what they say they believe, or they do not really believe what they say they do. Calvinism rightly taught leads to zealous soul winning. Or at least it ought to. But then, that ought to be the testimony of every Christian. Right?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Four Steps to Changing the World

Much has been said over the years about how to change the world (and the world's need for change). There is certainly enough to show us how badly the world needs reform. Corruption is rampant in every level of society. So is crime, immorality, malaise, sloth, envy, and every form of sin. Reality TV shows feed our appetite for voyeurism. It seems we love to watch other people's sins and corruptions. Child abuse and domestic abuse seem to be more and more in the news. Yes, there is a good deal of need in the world for something to happen.

For me, I am a preacher. More than that, I am a Christian. I believe with all my heart that the only hope for the world is the Lord Jesus Christ. In His words, His teachings and the life changing power of the Holy Spirit He has sent to us, is all the hope there is for humanity. But with all that, there seems to be a dearth of change happening.

In other words, for all the good that is in the Bible, for all the presence of the Holy Spirit and for all the churches and all the Christians, there does not seem to be a lot of transformation going on. I want to show four steps that I believe (if they were followed) would make a true Christian difference in the world. We may not be able to change the whole world, but if these steps were followed, we could make a difference in the place where we live.

Step 1. We need to remember who we are. We are Christians. We are child of the Most High and Living God. We are Brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ, slaves of righteousness, Kings and Priests to the Lord our God. We are heirs of salvation and possessors of every blessing in the heavenly places. Our God lives within us in the Person of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity. He speaks to us. He has left us with His love letter, the Bible to teach us His will and His ways. Step 1 is to take up this Bible and to learn of Him and His ways, then, to live according to what we have learned. Step 1 in changing the world is to see Christians changed. We are supposed to be being changed, day by day, into the image of our savior, Jesus Christ. We need to be not only Bible believing Christians, but also Bible living Christians. Each and every one of us need to start with ourselves first.

There is no sense in crying about the need of the world to change if we Christians will not be changed ourselves. We want prayer in school when we do not pray in our homes. We want to see passed to make our nation more of a Christian nation but we will not learn of, nor live by God's law in our own hearts. We complain about the lack of commitment among Christians to Christ, while we refuse to commit ourselves to Christ. Step 1 begins with each one of us.

Step 2 is a logical outgrowth of step 1. Once we begin to live by the word of the Living God, that is the scriptures, then we need to start applying them to our relationships within our families. If we cannot learn to love our spouses and our children the way God wants us to love, how can we ever love our church families or the lost in the world? If we want to see the world changed according to the words of Christ, then we need to see our families transformed by the words of Christ. We must take the lessons we have learned and applied to ourselves and then apply to the larger settings within our families. God has given us families for this very purpose. We can learn sacrificial love and service within our families. We can learn how to provide for people who are dependent on us for their lives within the family. We can learn to be committed to a group and that our lives are not lived out in isolation. All this and more is there to learn. Step 2 is for Christian people to have Christian families.

Step 3 requires us to step into a larger crowd, our home church. When Christian people take their Christian family and go to a Christian church we can effect one more step in changing our world. Unfortunately, many churches today live in a sub christian culture. They do not expound on the sacred scriptures, they substitute entertainment for worship. They are driven by the world's measures of success ... numbers and money. But, if Christians were to take the biblical lessons they have applied to themselves and to their families and applied the same lessons to the life of the church, then we might see a rebirth of Christian communities again. I mean truly Christian communities. We would see groups of Christians who love the Bible, believe the Bible, learn the Bible and live the Bible. What a revival might be brought about by groups united in doctrine, fellowship and prayer. The third step is to see our churches transformed into truly Christian fellowships.

Step 4 involves Christian people living out Christian principles in the world around them. If we would stop seeing ourselves as businessmen, teachers, farmers, lawyers, and workers and began to think of ourselves as Christian businessmen, Christian teachers, Christian farmers, Christian lawyers, or Christian workers, what an effect that would have on how we conducted ourselves in the world. If Christian fathers and Christian mothers raised Christian children, what might the future of our nation look like? If Christian husbands committed themselves to their Christian wives, what changes in society might be brought about? If we put the principles of honest work, honesty in our business dealings, if Christian ethics and morality ruled over our lives ... if the Bible was the standard of our real behavior ... what would our culture be like?

That is my simple, not profound, four step method for changing the world. People becoming real Christians, turning their families into real Christian families, making their churches into real Christian fellowships, and living out the principles of their Christian religion in their everyday lives, touching the world around them.

If one Christian would do it, it would make a difference. If every Christian did it, the whole world could be turned upside down. It begins with one person, seriously committed to God, Christ, and the words of the Living God in the Bible. It begins with you and me.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Here I Am To Worship

One of the biggest areas where modern day American Christians fall flat is in an understanding of what is worship. Over the years, a lot has been made of the "worship wars," but those are almost exclusively about style and music. They ask questions like "Should we stay with an organ and piano or can we bring in a rock band?"

In other churches, the focus is on entertainment and putting on a show. From the opening musical note to the amen at the end, the entire church service (in these kinds of churches) is a carefully choreographed presentation. There is very little congregational involvement except to cheer on the performers.

In fact, if I were to go down the list and mention briefly all the kinds of "worship" that are out there, I would easily use a good amount of time to accomplish it. Let it suffice to say that many churches are doing all kinds of things and calling it worship, but it falls short. That is what I want to talk about in this post.

"Worship" comes from the idea of "worth-ship." It is ascribing worth to someone. In the case of Christian worship, it is ascribing worth to God. When we gather into our Sunday morning congregations, we have gathered together to meet God and acknowledge who He is. We are here (in church) to humble ourselves under His Sovereign rulership over us. We are gathered together to honor Him, glorify Him, hear Him, obey Him, and to know Him more than we did before.

Our worship services are meeting times with God. We have come into His Presence. We meet Him. In the preaching, we hear His voice, and we purpose to obey Him in what He has spoken to us through His preached Word. In so doing, we exalt Him and lift Him up as our King and Sovereign Lord. We also humble ourselves under Him, exalting Him and debasing ourselves as we see Him as He truly is (and ourselves as we truly are in comparison to Him).

I have found that people get out of worship what they expect to get. If we were to come into the Presence of the Holy One with the mindset that that was what was happening, we might more often encounter the Living God. Too often we come expecting to be entertained or some other purpose. Most come to church with every aim in mind except to meet God.

But worship is meeting God and responding appropriately. It is seeing God for who He is and seeing ourselves for who we really are, and ascribing Him the glory due to Himself, in light of who we are (compared to Him). When we come to see worship in that light, then holiness, reverential fear, and true humility will pervade our church services. Then and only then, will people see us and know that we are the people of God.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

God's Purpose in Election

God's purpose in election is to glorify Himself by setting apart a people for Himself to whom He will reveal Himself personally and show His love in them and through them. Then, that these people, by virtue of this relationship would exist to bring glory to God (the Blessed Three in One) here on earth and then forever in heaven. Soli Deo Gloria! Amen.

Happy Easter 2007

As we turn our minds towards family and friends, many people will find themselves in church this morning to worship the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. As we contemplate the fact that his resurrection from the dead validates and proves the truthfulness of everything he said and did, let us remember that the resurrection calls us to respond. If Jesus Christ was truly who he said he was, and if he really rose from the dead and is now alive forevermore, then what does that mean for your life and what are you going to do with it? "He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!" This was a little Easter meditation for you to think about. Happy Easter.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Something Worth Thinking About

In countries where Christianity is comfortable and secure, Christians are apathetic, compromising, and decadent. But in every country where Christianity fights for it's existence and the believers are persecuted, the Church grows and the faith is strong, even unto death.

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Just something worth thinking about.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Evangelical Idolatry

In every corner of the American Evangelical Church today I find problems in theology. Now, I know that Christians don't agree on everything. Shucks, I am a Baptist. It is said that wherever two Baptists gather together you have three opinions. But what I am talking about goes beyond simple disagreement among brother and sister Christians. It is a wholesale abandonment of the Bible in favor of something else.

In many sermons I have heard preachers make reference to "Burger King Christianity." You get it your way. I have also heard of "buffet style Christianity," you pick and choose what goes on your plate. Evangelicalism is obsessed with "Seeker Sensitive" Christianity. You find out what draws people to church (or to a large gathering of people) and you give it to them. There is "market driven Christianity" in which Jesus and the gospel are treated like products. You have to sell your product in a way that makes it more attractive than the competitors.

Now, the latest "movement" is the "Emergent Church." Emergent Christianity tries to redevelop a Christianity for people who are turned off to church and who do not believe in ultimate or absolute truths. The Emergent preachers will cuss, use lewd or sexual illustrations for their sermons and engage in all manner of behavior and belief to set themselves apart from their counterparts in the previous generation. Now, I know this is a generalization and not a hard and fast truth for every single Emergent preacher, however, enough examples can be found that this trend is well established.

In all these examples, the trend is to find a God and a Christianity that is acceptable to people. What is missing is an attempt to find a Christianity that is acceptable to God. Current American Evangelicalism is almost completely anthropocentric (man-centered). What is missing is a theocentric (God-centered) beginning point.

Theocentric Christianity is a Biblical Christianity. One of the first activities in the early church, according to Acts 2, was that they continued steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine. They studied what the apostles taught and they continued in it. That means they believed it and tried to live according to it. Theocentric Christianity believes the Bible and lives according to it.

More than that, theocentric Christianity accepts, as a truism, that the Bible is the inspired word of God. It is God's words given to men through the pens of inspired writers. Therefore, the Bible, in it's plain reading and proper context, is to be accepted as God's word and will without question. The Bible does not need to be reinterpreted, or made acceptable, or made relevant, or (fill in the blank). It needs to be accepted for what it says.

The further we get from what the Bible truly says, the more we live in a Christianity we have invented with our own minds. The further we get from the God of the Bible the more we worship an idol we have invented for ourselves.

The God of the Bible is the sovereign ruler over all creation. Creation itself continues to exist by the power of His word. He has judged sin and sinners, yet, has mercy on whom He wills. He gave His Son Jesus Christ as a substitutionary sacrifice for the people He desires to save. His Spirit will find those whom He has chosen and will bring them, sooner or later, to saving faith in Jesus Christ. God has predestined these beloved to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. And so they shall be conformed, because the God of all creation will accomplish His own will.

The more modern Christians turn towards a God who exalts man, the more they turn away from the God whose ultimate purpose is His own glory.

Soli Deo Gloria - to God alone be the glory. Let God be true and every man a liar. God never does for man what man can do for himself. God moves men to a place of total dependence on Himself, then He moves so that no one can claim credit for what was done. All will know that the work is of the Lord.

Beloved Christian, search the scriptures, read the scriptures, believe the scriptures, live the scriptures. Find in the scriptures the doctrine that gives all the glory to God for all things. Settle for nothing less. Because anything less than the biblical God and biblical Christianity ... is idolatry.